Rebuilding mandirs, gurdwaras
IN the months that have followed the Taliban's ouster from Afghanistan, the social upheaval in the rugged mountainous country, especially Kabul, has been tremendous. While a suppressed race has celebrated its freedom, Hindus and Sikhs, who'd fled in the fear of being persecuted by the Taliban, have started trickling in.
One of the first tasks they’ve undertaken is to rebuild the mandirs and gurdwaras, which also bore the brunt of Taliban attacks. It’s no simple task. Koh-e-Asamai, the central hill feature of Kabul around which the city is spread, is named after the Mother Goddess of Nature. This was where the Goddess Temple was located — it was later shifted to Asamai Road on the foot of the hill. Here, the pujari claims that the Akhand Jyot has been burning for over 4,000 years. It’s a revered place for both Hindus and Sikhs.
Another prominent mandir is Baba Harshri Nath Mandir in the old Kabul Market known as Mandai. The complex also has Shiv Mandir and Bhairon Mandir. Every Friday, Hindus and Sikhs of Kabul collect here for kirtan followed by langar. The mandir also supports several Hindu families who have returned during the last three years after the Taliban were driven away.
Yet another mandir is in the Shor Bazar area. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the small mandir survived fierce shelling during the civil war even as big gurdwaras in the vicinity were damaged extensively.
Back to Hindus and Sikhs, business families have returned to pick up threads of their lives. They have reclaimed their shops and properties, some of which were encroached upon by others in their absence. Sikhs and Hindus, interestingly, speak the local languages of Dari and Pashtu with amazing ease.
Currently, besides Hindus and Sikhs, there are Indians in Afghanistan — they are helping the Government in reconstruction and developing infrastructure. Service sectors have also added to the number of Hindus and Sikhs. The fields in which Indian experts are involved include health, transport, education, telecommunication, radio and television, power production and transmission, computer training, road construction and civic amenities.
The increase in their numbers has added colour to the Diwali and Guru Nanak’s birthday celebrations this year. Diwali fell on the last day of the Ramadan, the fasting month, and Muslims greeted Hindu brethren who reciprocated the goodwill on Id, the next day.
Many Muslims also participated in the celebrations of Guru Nanak’s birthday at the Karte Parwan gurdwara. They listened to kirtan and also shared langar with Sikhs. This gurdwara is associated with Guru Nanak’s visit to Kabul five centuries ago and his elder son, Baba Sri Chand, is supposed to have meditated here for quite some time.
While Hindus and Sikhs are busy with their places of worship, Muslims are working hard putting together various monuments of historical importance.
Bagh-e-Babur (Babur’s garden) in south-eastern Kabul had been neglected and ruined in the past 30 years of turmoil. It's being renovated now. Founder of the Mughal empire, Zahiruddin Mohammad Babur loved Kabul so much that he willed to be buried in his favourite terrace garden. The four walls around the grave are being constructed and the Shahjahani Masjid in the beautiful white marble of Taj Mahal-type stone, built by Shahjahan in 1646 to celebrate his victory over Balkhis, is also being repaired.
The white marble grave lies at the terrace just above the marble mosque. Though Babur died in Agra in 1530, his body could only be brought to Kabul for his final resting place several years later because of a struggle for the throne between Humayun and his two brothers. It was his beloved Afghan wife, Bibi Mubarika Yusufzai, who fulfilled Babur’s wish.
The Royal Palace of the Mughals, next to the tomb, also needs preservation.
(The writer is a Kabul-based journalist with Arman TV)